Turkish baths in provincial England

Manchester: High Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

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The Victoria Baths

1: The baths

The Victoria Baths—'a handsome structure of red Ruabon brick and terracotta built in the Renaissance style'—were erected by Manchester Corporation's Baths and Wash-houses Committee in 1903-6 to the design of the City Architect, Henry Price. Covering a large area of 7,395 sq yds fronting Chorlton-on-Medlock's High-Street (now known as Hathersage Road), they were opened to much acclaim on 7 September 1906, when the Lord Mayor described the building as 'a "water palace", of which, he took it, every citizen of Manchester was proud.'

The baths were closed in 1993 despite a vigorous public campaign which, though unsuccessful in stopping the closure, led to the formation of the Friends of Victoria Baths and the Victoria Baths Trust both of which continue to campaign for the re-opening of the baths as part of a Healthy Living Centre for Central Manchester.

When originally built, the main complex contained first and second class swimming pools for males, and a smaller pool for females. The first class bath for males had dressing-boxes at the pool-side, and a balcony for spectators. Also included was a combined diving-board-cum-water-chute which was over twelve foot high. From the street, access to each pool was by way of what was then considered to be an appropriately sized entrance—the largest being for first class male bathers and the smallest for the female bathers. In addition to the three pools there were 62 first and second class private slipper baths, and both Russian and Turkish baths.


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The Victoria Baths, Manchester. Part 1: the male baths

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

 
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